History of Qatar

History of Qatar Last updated on Thursday 22nd April 2010

Early and pre-Islamic history

There is evidence of human habitation in Qatar as early as the 5th or 6th centuries B.C. The Greek historian, Herodotus, refers to the seafaring Canaanites as the original inhabitants of Qatar. And the ancient geographer, Ptolemy, showed in his map of the Arab world a town believed to be the present Qatari town of Zubarah. Danish, French and British expeditions have discovered inscriptions, rock carvings and fine pottery in the peninsula.

Qatar embraced Islam in the middle of the 7th century A.D. and since that time, it has been noticed regularly in the accounts of Arab historians and writers. The country was famed for its fine striped woven cloaks, known as Qatari cloaks, and for the excellence of spears made in the country.

First signs of human habitation in the Qatar peninsula date from 4000BC. Archaeological expeditions in the sixties and seventies found rock carvings and sets of pottery that indicate human presence at that time. Qatar also appears on ancient maps, a clear sign that travelers and explorers alike knew of the presence of civilized settlements in this location. Some historical texts indicate that the first inhabitants of Qatar are the ancient Canaanites, who are known for their trade and navigation skills.

The strategic location of Qatar on the Arabian Gulf was the main reason for the seasonal migration of Arab tribes from the Arabian Peninsula and particularly from the Nejd desert. When the ancient Mediterranean flourished with many civilizations, the Arabian Gulf area, with its strategic location, found commercial prosperity. The several fishing centres and pearl trading such as Al Zubara, Al Bida Al Khor and Al Wakra. Due to the concentration of trade in the red sea area during the Roman era, the Gulf suffered from a commercial decline, but from the third century AD the area regained its important trading position.


Following the appearance of Islam in the Arabian Peninsula, Qatar started to play a key role starting from the mid seventh century AD. It had an important role in the campaign to spread Islam beyond the seas. Historical document indicate that Qatar was especially renowned for the skill of its people in weaving and cloth making as well as for the quality of its horses and camels.

During the Abbasid period Qatar thrived and had excellent relations with the Caliphs in Baghdad; artifacts from the Abbasid period were discovered in Moab fort in western Qatar.

The Ottoman period

Qatar fell under the influence of the Portuguese at the beginning of the sixteenth century. The Portuguese succeeded in establishing control over many areas in the Arabian Gulf and managed later to control trade and navigation. However, the Ottomans managed to expel the Portuguese in 1538 AD and Qatar, like other areas in the Gulf, came under the Ottoman sovereignty for about four centuries, but the real power remained in the hands of the local sheikhs due to the Ottoman sovereignty being mostly a formal one.

Independence and present-day Qatar

Qatar remained a British protectorate until 1971, when Britain decided to withdraw from the Gulf area. The country adopted a provisional constitution in which the state of Qatar had been declared as an Arab country with Islam as an official religion and Sharia as the prime source of legislation an Arabic as the official language. Qatar became an independent country on 3 September 1971. In 1974, the Qatar General Petroleum Corporation took control of all oil operations in the country. Qatar rapidly became a rich country with a modern infrastructure.

On 27 June 1995, His Highness Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani took over power; with his accession Qatar entered a new era of modernization and embarked on the development of a strong base for democracy.

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